Beans seem to be a recurring topic here, but why not? They’re frugal, nutritious, and so versatile. And they can even be sprouted for more nutrition – but that’s another post. Today I just want to talk about the prep work involved BEFORE the cooking starts.
For my non-bean-converted friends: are you intimidated by the steps involved in preparing beans? Or do you just think you don’t like the taste?
I wish I had some great segue here, but I don’t – I really just hope to remove the intimidation. I’ve loved beans ever since I can remember, so I can only urge you to keep trying them different ways. Baked beans, chicken tortilla soup, and white chili are some ideas to get you started. And you already like hummus, right?
If you’re new to using dried beans, sorting might be the most confusing step. It doesn’t take long, and it can be kinda fun (especially if you have some OCD tendencies.) There are many ways you can do this, but here are some methods I’ve used in the past:
- Take small handfuls and inspect carefully
- Spread the beans out in one layer on the counter or in a large flat pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) so you can see all the beans (and any foreign objects) all at once
- If you’re using a slow cooker, you can pour the beans onto the clear glass lid and spot the misfits pretty easily (although you can’t tell in this picture):
Here are a few things I sorted out of some pintos awhile back:
Those black pebbles are commonly found in a lot of beans, but you DEFINITELY want to fish them out – the one time I didn’t sort my beans, I ended up with a really gritty-tasting soup because those pebbles are concentrated field dirt. I usually find more in black beans than any other type of bean – maybe they’re sorted with optical scanning equipment so they get by because they appear to be beans? That’s my theory anyway.
I also look for beans that are small and shriveled, excessively dirty (like a black spot covering a whole side of a white bean), or otherwise look old and mishandled. Beans that are old won’t cook as well and won’t taste as good.
The next step – rinsing – is fairly straight forward. You can put the beans into a large sieve or colander and run under the tap to clean them well. This is not optional, unless you’re cool with consuming a nice layer of “field dust,” which could include insect droppings, dirt, etc. A good rinse will remove a lot of this, and the next step should remove the rest.
Soaking — the final step — is also easy, but requires a little more forethought. It becomes mindless pretty quickly, though, once you work all of this into your weekly kitchen routine. I will discuss this in more detail in another post.
Do you have a favorite bean recipe? I’m always looking for new ones!